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Fast Songwriting In Ableton Live

Lesson 2 of 18

Building a Track From The Ground Up

Isaac Cotec

Fast Songwriting In Ableton Live

Isaac Cotec

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Lesson Info

2. Building a Track From The Ground Up

Lesson Info

Building a Track From The Ground Up

This is going to be more about your own creative drive and how to stay creative throughout the process and not get writer's block and stuff like that because this is again that wider view that I want to give you so you don't get stuck in just the technical aspects of all of this because that's not gonna really help make your music right like we're here to make music and part of that is being creative person creative being how do we stay creative and how do we stay efficient that's what I'm going to start with and then we're gonna move into the music so it's this thing I like to call the creative mode the creative mode is when we're it's an awesome moment when you're your brain is kind of firing and you're feeling the music you're just in your you're in the moment and that is what I call the creative mode right if it feels fantastic it's probably it is the reason I make music because I love that sense of creativity and there's some things that really help ah stay in that creative mode a...

nd it's important to know those things because sometimes you you might just feel stuck and you don't know like why can't I make music? Why can't I finish what I'm doing or it might be because you don't have these aspects prepared for you and the first one is space in the second one we have is time and then we have time again. Yep, I know two, two times, but there's a reason there's different aspects of time and then confidence and play with space it's kind of obvious it's more of just creating the space for your music, but I mean more than, uh, just the physical aspect of space, but it's a place in which you can feel creative on a very basic level think of it this way. If you're at work, you've had a really hard time at work, you come home and you have your guitar hidden in the back of your closet, probably not going to go to that guitar just that's human nature, we're kinda lazy, but if that guitar was sitting right next to your couch, you come home, you lay on the couch just like I'm just gonna play a little guitar, you've made it easier for you to be creative and that's what I mean, like having a space like I have a studio at my house, in my room, in a studio and in the studio, I try to keep it clean, I've got my computer all set up, I've got my midi controller all set up, I'm good to go if my keyboard is closer to my workstation, I'm more likely to use it if I create a space that looks creative that has cool art that inspires me has fun lighting or whatever that will help me get in my creative space so it is quite important thing granted if you have a bedroom that's totally fine as well I mean I was doing bedroom production for years but try toe have somewhat of a usable space for your music I think that goes hand in hand with that his time now if you're like most humans on this world if you sit down to make music you're probably gonna have something coming your head like oh I have to work tomorrow at said time or I need to call my girlfriend back and she's going to get upset over this or that or I need to do these things I need to do my taxes yeah I know it's it's on my mind um but setting aside time by saying I'm going to have four hours I'm just going to shut off the rest of my life all these things that we need to do they're going to put him to the side and have these four hours for making music it helps your mind relax into it and I actually like to work in four hour increments now this cool little trick where I will actually take tea lights because tea lights burn for four hours on average three to four and uh I'm a little bit of a hippie don't hold it against me it's my deal school I have like a little altar thing about my production and on it I put a candle this little tea light and I like the tea light and I know it's gonna be around for hours and it's kind of this subconscious thing like the way our subconscious minds pretty funny but I'm burning time it's literally in front of me I have this amount of time before I need to stop and take a break and having that has greatly improved my production granted this could also be a phone app or whatever you want to do but having it burned and then it and it also keeps me on task because like I don't want to go on facebook and do these other things because I told myself I only have four hours so look come on man get get to it very helpful and if I'm having like just a normal a normal production day all generally worked four hours and the rest of day I'll work on just back end stuff the business side of music but if I have like an album coming up or something I really need to work on then I'll do a four hour increments take a lunch break or longer break like an hour break and it will take another four hours so sometimes I do an eight hour day if if I have the time granted, if you don't have four hours that's just what I like to do you can do this within two maybe within one anything under one I wouldn't I would move more into preproduction stuff more into the technical side of music because it gets really hard to actually get going in your groove. Which brings us to the next thing which is time again we've created our sanctuary white we've created a space that is ready for us to produce it's easy to make music we have our time ready to work just starting to get into it and then we have this annoying little thing in the back of our brain which is is this done yet? Did I make a track like come on let's go let's make a track let's get this done and out in the world and that little thing that is trying to push you to finish as quick as possible could be detrimental to your art. Now a lot of this idea these five things I came up from with uh john cleese from monty python he did an amazing talk on this and one of things he brought up when he was talking about this aspect of time was when he was working on sketches with flying circus monty python he was working with this one guy he was super creative, very funny guy and whenever he wrote sketches they just never seemed that awesome, they just never really were groundbreaking in any way, and john felt like he was making things that was a little bit more groundbreaking, but he didn't feel that he had the natural ability. Is this other guy? He always wondered why? Why was this guy like not creating the best sketches? And he came to realize that what happened was, is this guy? When you sat down to make a sketch, he would start writing out ideas, you come up with some jokes, you think they were funny, he's like, oh, this is he's a great jokes cool. I'm going to develop the concept, bam! I'm done like there's, my sketch where with him in his process, he found that after he came up with an idea, he would keep going a little bit more, he would come up with other ideas and other sketches, and he found out that usually it was the second or third sketch, which was more interesting because it takes a little while to come up with some cool ideas. You see this in in, uh, any creative person or someone who's trying to solve a problem, even in science, things like that, where the first idea generally isn't the most groundbreaking, amazing idea, it's the ones that you come up after, so no, if you if you have that voice in the back your head wanting you to finish that you need to hold pass that uncomfortable feeling of not being done and keep working on ideas even past what you think needs needs to be, you know, finished track and we're going to go over that a little bit within sketches but that's a really important idea like this is a process take your time with it you know it's more than just saying four hours it's like really allowing yourself to relax into new and new ideas the next thing is confidence a lot easier for me to say oh, just be confident that is to actually have confidence takes some time takes some practice but eventually you will have it but it's important to know that I have listened to a lot of music and out of you guys have well, I know you guys have listened like music, but if you listen to music and you just take out like a like a ten bar or thirty two bar section and listen to it and just listen to that one section over and over, you might be like, wow that's not that interesting there's not a lot going on here there's like some kick some base and weird sound effective things going on, but when I just take this one aspect, I could totally make that like theirs you know why? Why is it my music sounded like my music is as good as this, but the thing is that person had confidence. They said, whatever I like this, this is fun to me. Cool let's move on with the track let's build out the other aspects and it was more the story through that track, which is what makes it really interesting to you. So you need to have confidence if you come up with an idea, trust me, even if it's a bad idea, even if it sucks someone's going toe like it, if you like it. If you're confident with what you're creating, they're going to be people that are super into it. I mean, I love effects twin, but they're definitely some examples of that, like some really weird sounds like why? Why do people go crazy over it? It's just like person tweaking his knobs, making noise but it worked, you know, so have confidence. I know that your tastes are worth it the valuable if you like it, people will like it, just run with it. And then the last thing is play remember, this is this is to have fun. This is music if you're not having fun in your creation, people can tell that like they're listening to it because they want to feel like there is creation in the world they want to feel playful they wanna have fun so have that through your musical process the more that you can have play around it experiment pushing your own edges the better your music will actually sound and people are drawn to that that's why we have weird music like fx twin it's playful it's weird it pushes our boundaries so just do that with yourself and you're gonna make better music now that was all the creative mode, right? Well, there's this annoying thing about the way that we work that we have this creative aspect but then we also have this other thing that we need to do which is more of the kind of the metaphor of the right brain left brain granted, we know now that there's not actually a right and left brain in the way that it works it's kind of more complicated than that but the metaphor holds true we have one side which is our creative side as a musician but then we have the other side which is more of the how do we stay efficient? How do we get these things done? How do we move forward? That is our objective mode that is, how do we get this objective done? How do we go about finishing this track right? And I'm gonna go over this one a little bit quicker than the last one and then talk about how these to interact with each other. So in the objective mode, we have clear goals. I want to get this amazing gabber trap song done in a few days, right? I don't know if you guys make gather trap, I'd be interested in hearing it, but you have clear goal. You want to organize your time going to say, like, okay, I work these days, I have these days to make music here's how I organize it cool, great also with organization it's about cleaning here, place up, you know, just being organized, being prepared to make things, and then having the time set. So okay, four hours like that's, a very objective mode thing to say, four hours at such a finite thing. Another part with the objective mode is in the creative mode. I feel like it's, a much more relaxing thing, it's like I'm coming up with cool ideas, I'm jamming with myself, it doesn't seem to like hold you down and really weigh on you as much as being an objective mood like editing and ah, sound design kind of like that sort of stuff it's more technical, make sure you pace yourself, so I put that on here just pace yourself don't get totally obsessed with these things like no that it it takes time don't get upset if things aren't happening as quickly as you can creativity doesn't work very well on a deadline deadline can help but just pace yourself and the last thing is quantified results. In other words, if I set down to make a track did I finish a track very simple right? Like if I'm going to sit down and work on creating ten beats today, I just want to make cool beats did I finish those ten beats and that's the objective mode it's much more about the precision like a military ability to just create something and be very efficient in the way that you do it now the way these two things interact is the object the creative mode is much more about playfulness being in the moment presence having fun the objective mode is like how do I get things done? How do we move forward? How do I efficiently do this? And the thing that I was talking about the kind of paradox a ll annoying way that we work as humans is we have to as musicians balance both of these aspects constantly we need to be able to move in or creative mode for a few hours come up with an idea I have confidence in that idea and then moved back to our objective mode zoom out. Do I like this? What am I going to do? This how one of the steps needed? Okay, go back in the creative mode and the more that you recognize these as two different aspects of your music, the mohr, efficient and better you will be a creation of your music, right? And then he was just some little tricks and tips for y'all that'll really help? Like I've been doing this for years, and I'm hoping to instill the wisdom that I've learned along the way to make me efficient. Where from where I started, which it will take me maybe a month or two to finish a track. And now khun, take me a week or less, right? And it's, because of learning these these aspects, I'm talking about these air, just some healthy habits that I'm hoping toe instill tto help you out as a musician, one is keeping a producer's journal that's just the journal that I have that I kind of write down concepts, ideas, imagery that I'm playing with cool technique. Someone told me at some club somewhere, and I could just flip through it for ideas as well as it just helps kind of ground out my ideas and make them feel more real, and I found it incredibly useful, so try it out, just get a journal and fill it out. Have it next to your desk. Um, I've gotten a lot from that. Next thing is keeping a clean workspace, that's, just housekeeping stuff. I'm not your mom or whatever, but it will help you. It really does. Uh, next thing keep a healthy body, we are body in mind. I'm not going to go too deep into this, but because it gets more like spiritual aspects of things. But we are a body and if our body is unhealthy than our mind is unhealthy, we'll get sluggish. If we're eating nothing but cheetos and rock stars and producing music, then we're just our body will wear out. We're just you're not going to feel is creative. You're not going to feel I mean, people can tell that in the music so the more that you can work on yourself on your health on taking breaks on just that aspect of your life, the better your music will be, you know, it's, not that big of a deal just tried to eat. I mean, I know there's been days I produced, I woke up in the morning and I didn't really eat anything until the evening and that was just terrible for me. I was so like low on sugar and stuff on the end of the day that the whole day was a waste so now like just take a break pizza food, it's all good take breaks take your time and the last one which is something you're doing right now. She's awesome! Thanks for being here, that's constantly learn now the more you learn, the more you have to play with the more things that hopefully inspire you. So if you ever get stuck, go learn something breakout of your habits, learn a new aspect of music you could spend your entire life learning one single thing around music I could just talk about scales for hours on end people have written books entire like libraries full of just scales and temperament tuning that's one aspect you know don't get obsessed with this like people have done kids can make awesome music with knowing nothing but the older you get just try learning new things, it's going to expand your palate of possibilities which you're doing now so awesome great uh I don't do we have any questions? I mean that's a lot of wider scope stuff, but we have one question from eight ball there's uh there's both to get working on it and the stay working on it, my problem and um, problem for many others is we dabble on the same idea too long. When do you decide when a song is actually finished? So that's that's a great question. Uh, before I was a musician, I was actually a painter, and I had a gallery here in seattle and something I noticed when I was even in high school doing art is I would be sitting next to someone who did amazing art. They were amazing. They're way better than I was, and I would create a, uh, painting pretty quickly and actually end up getting some awards as a kid for what I was doing. The difference between me and the person next to me was not skill. They were better, but I was getting more done because I would just keep working until I felt like, oh, this is good enough. Move on that's something that's really hard to instill in people, but just know that if you like it, if you have confidence in it and you move on and you keep doing that, you're gonna get faster and better and better and better at your process. So you will. More people will recognise you well, like your music more than that one person who held onto it so as to knowing when it's done completely personal opinion, but I would just say I mean, you could do a lot with five elements you could do a lot with fifty elements get obsessed with this but if you if you just like it move on if you don't like it, work on it a little bit more don't spend too much time on it and move on to the next thing I've definitely noticed that for me I'll generally make two or three tracks before the one that I like so we're going to talk a lot about that sketches and composition and I think if you really understand the steps it helps you speed through them because you might be stuck on one aspect and realize await I should move on to the next step so if you stick with us and if you take in the things I talk around sketches and compositions hopefully that'll really answer that question and give you some cool tools thank all you guys have any questions good, I know it's it's bigger, more kind of abstract stuff but we're gonna get we're going from the the macro to the micro so we're going to get closer and closer and um by the second segment, we're going to really start rolling in the music creation all right? So the first stage I talked about on the steps of music creation is the concept right? This is building musical ideas, creative imagery things like that

Class Description

When you are working on a song it’s easy to get lost in the details of production and lose sight of what you are really trying to do: make better music. Ableton Live can help – Ableton’s flexible workflow lets you focus on what really matters.

Isaac Cotec is an Ableton Certified Trainer and in Fast Songwriting In Ableton Live he’ll teach you how to setup Live so the technical side of your songwriting process is simple and straightforward.

You’ll get tips on organizing your sample library, presets, and other assets so you can stay in the flow once the creative process starts. Then you’ll work through every step of songwriting process. To start off, Isaac will share tips on:

  • Picking a concept, genre, and bpm
  • Building out the melodic and rhythmic seeds
  • Quickly writing the foundation of the track

He’ll also help develop your work after you’ve laid a foundation. You’ll get insights on using:

  • Core elements: intro, verse, chorus, bridge, break, pre-chorus
  • Melodic devices: call and response, passing notes, ground bass
  • Rhythmic devices: syncopation, polyrhythm, etc

For those times when inspiration isn’t coming, Isaac will share the strategies he uses to overcome writer’s block and help you know when a song is done. You’ll know exactly what it takes to set up an optimal workspace in Ableton and how to write a song while taking full advantage of it’s functions and features.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Caribbean Drum Beats

Concept Music Guide

Creating Stem

Drum Loops

Fast Songwriting Example Files

Future Step MIDI Patterns

Hip Hop Beats 60-100 bpm


Production Template v3

Scale MIDI Presets

Scale Refrences

Sharing Live Sets

Fast Songwriting in Ableton Live - Syllabus

Isaac Cotec - Scale Refrences.alp

Isaac Cotec - Scale Refrences.alp

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


a Creativelive Student

I started sequencing in the mid-80s using Dr T's Keyboard-controlled sequencer... it had two modes like LIVE, a loop mode and an arrangement mode... you can see the progression of design today.. of course, there were no internal sounds, just MIDI, so you used modules and keyboards for sound generation, synced to tape for recording, added vocals, then took your tape to a bigger studio to mix, then sent off your master to those mysterious magicians to make it sound like a record. Amazing to see such a young kid like Isaac, able to do all the above work out of a little laptop! This young man is such an inspiration. He's not only got the music and technical side down, he's got got a good head on his shoulders. Great job, Isaac! Thanks so much for your willingness to teach and share what you have, and you have a lot! You're a great help.

Victor van Dijk

In awe with this super kind and highly knowledgeable teacher! Wow, he really pours his musician's heart out in this outstanding course on everything that relates to being a musician, sketching, writing songs, composing, and so on. Also it's a course chock a block full of highly helpful Ableton Live project files, PDFs, and many many useful tips and tricks. I highly recommend this course, it should have cost WAY more, and in all honesty, it's a steal! And did I mention, that you learn a lot about and within the Ableton Live environment?! LOVE this course!


Isaac is one of the best guy who can teach anything on Ableton! He got so many tips! His courses are so amazing! I really improved my skills thanks to him! And I do rewatch his courses with pleasure!